“Finding yourself by getting lost” is a common refrain among those that love being in wild places. Nature rejuvenates, inspires and heals – many of us seek this as balance in life. The solace of being in a natural environment gives us respite from an oversubscribed, digitally saturated life style. The spirit of being in a wild setting is best embodied in the National Park Service of the United States.
With over 400 units ranging from the National Mall in Washington DC to the Wrangell St Elias National Park in Alaska, the National Park Service is home to the nations historical heritage and the wildness that defines the North American continent. The (TK) parks traverse the continent East to West and North to South. From the mangrove swamps of the Everglades in Florida to the perpetual winter on the summit of Denali in Alaska, the Park System captures the incredible natural diversity of our corner of the world.
The benefit of these wild places is that they belong to everyone. As citizens of the United States we can say we collectively “own” them, yet the beauty of wilderness is not valued by money, trade or exploitation. All are welcome to spend a day or fortnight in a park, discovering the mysteries of nature. This elemental connection to nature, which is our origin and sustenance, is a gentle reminder of our place in the cosmos.
2016 marks the centennial of the National Park Service, the entity that watches over the wild places, and helps us understand their uniqueness and preserves them for future generations. To celebrate 100 years, the National Park Service teamed up with MacGillivray Freeman Films to capture film of these treasures in the splendor of IMAX film.
The film is an inspiration, not a substitute for the experience of being in the parks. Given this, how does one showcase the history and splendor of our nations wild heritage in a 45-minute movie? What better way to tell the story than with a road trip? Travel around; experience the seasons and the diversity of the parks with family and friends. The production team invited me to be part of this amazing story along with my son Max Lowe and Rachel Pohl, a childhood friend from Bozeman, Montana.
Connecting the history of the parks, from the inception with Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir to the present, was a great honor. We started the journey in the southwest, climbing the Three Penguins in Arches National Park. The soft sandstone was a good warm up for the volcanic plug of Devil’s Tower; known to the Native Americans as Gray Horn Butte, in Wyoming. The splitter cracks are a challenge for any climber. Gravity is pulling against you in a never ending struggle. Enjoy a little climbing and one returns to the campsite humbled and rejuvenated. As summer transitioned into winter, we headed to the Midwest to climb ice towers on the shores of Lake Superior. The wind had temperatures below negative 30 degrees, keeping 150 ft waterfalls beautifully frozen in place.
The spirit and pursuit of the undiscovered is what drives us all to explore, regardless of the venue. Its human nature to venture into the mysterious and unknown, whether it’s an unclimbed ice tower or just exploring your back yard bike trails with friends. Getting out into the wild and breaking down personal boundaries is good for the soul, it helps us grow into the people we hope to be.